By Kathy Keatley Garvey
Julia Gamaza, a 2012 graduate of Rio Vista High School, is the winner of $3,000 Ester Armstrong Memorial College Scholarship Award from the Friends of the Dixon May Fair.
The scholarship memorializes fair industry veteran Ester Armstrong of Rockville, a former director of the California Division of Fairs and Expositions who served as interim CEO of the Dixon May Fair for three years, beginning in May 2006. She died in May 2009 of cancer.
Gamaza received the award at the Friends' appreciation dinner, held June 27 on the Dixon May Fair grounds. She was among seven Solano County residents who shared a total of $12,500 in agricultural-related college scholarships awarded by the Friends.
Others receiving scholarships were John Cronin of Rio Vista; and Dixon residents Stephanie Calestini and Ashtin Bechtold, who each received $2,000 toward their studies at a four-year college. Receiving scholarships to a two-year college were Kyle Garlick of Dixon, the winner of the Jack Hopkins Memorial Scholarship of $1,500; and Nathaniel Benning of Dixon and Kristin Clark-Webb of Vacaville/Dixon, who each received $1,000
The Friends, an all-volunteer organization led by Donnie Huffman of Vacaville, raises funds by selling beverages at the Dixon May Fair. They use the proceeds for building and grounds improvements on the fairgrounds, exhibitor awards, and college scholarships. Over the last 10 years, they've awarded more than $100,000 in college scholarships to Solano County students pursuing an agricultural-related career.
Beginning this fall, Gamaza will attend California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, where she will major in nutrition, specializing in oncology nutrition. "The practice of oncology nutrition covers research, prevention, treatment, recovery, palliative care and hospice," she wrote in her application. "Proper nutrition before, during and after the treatment of cancer can significantly affect the recovery of a patient. I plan to treat and prevent cancer by educating people about nutrition and helping them to eat healthfully."
Gamaza's mother was diagnosed in 2012 with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer and is in recovery. "I want to fight cancer because of my negative experience with the disease, but want to study nutrition because of my positive experience with agriculture," Gamaza wrote.
A former member of the Rio Vista 4-H Club, Gamaza served as vice president of the National Honor Society and president of the Interact Club at Rio Vista High School. She was also a student Rotarian and does volunteer work in her community.
Scholarship chair JoAn Giannoni, secretary of the Friends of the Fair, praised the recipients as "outstanding." Judging criteria included broad personal, civic and academic experience; academic standing; personal commitment and goals; leadership potential; civic accomplishments; and chosen field in the areas of agriculture." She said that 4-H, FFA or Grange experience is desired, but not mandated.
The deadline to apply for next year's scholarship is March 1. More information is on the Friends' website at http://www.friendsofthefair.org/